By Barry Russell, at Sepang
MotoGP lost one of its favourite characters today. In just his second season in the premier class, 24 year-old Marco Simoncelli always presented a threat to the established 'Aliens'. In the process he extended the hot-headed notoriety he had earned in the junior classes, but this was generally seen as reflection of his will to win.
Simoncelli's charm and self-effacing nature ensured that even his critics found it impossible to stay mad with him and his much anticipated first MotoGP win would have been hugely popular. He wore his big heart on his sleeve and his obvious love of racing motorcycles for a living drew ever increasing numbers of fans in a way that only his friend Valentino Rossi could beat.
As everyone's worst fears were confirmed this afternoon, riders and mechanics wept openly in the paddock and many sat slumped on the pit wall while they tried to come to terms with the news. On the other side of the track spectators were standing around in disbelief or hugging each other and sobbing.
During the morning I had been discussing with some of my Indonesian friends about why MotoGP is so popular in their country. One them, Ucha, told me, “I respect and admire the riders so much because they put themselves in danger every time they race in order to entertain us.”
Nobody on the current MotoGP grid gave more of himself to entertain than Marco Simoncelli and I hope that the love and sympathy I saw at Sepang today and pouring out from social media will console and strengthen his family in their moment of loss.
God speed, Marco.